Iron Cup boosts Pelham’s economy

The ice Iron Bowl between Auburn University and the University of Alabama at the Pelham Civic Complex brought an economic boost to Pelham. (File)

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

The first hockey meeting between two of the most bitter rivals in college sports brought an economic spike to the Pelham Civic Complex and businesses throughout the city, according to Pelham Marketing Director Eva Shepherd.

As many as 5,000 people came through the Civic Complex’s doors during the inaugural ice Iron Bowl weekend, which meant big business for area restaurants and hotels. The rush also provided exposure for the Civic Complex and the city, Shepherd said.

“It not only helped us. The trickle-down effect was great,” she said. “All the players stay in local hotels when they come here, and many of the spectators ate at local restaurants all weekend.”

During the weekend, the University of Alabama hockey team, which plays its home games at the Civic Complex, completed a three-game sweep of the first-year Auburn University hockey team.

It was the first time the two schools have ever met on the ice, and the rivalry drew much larger crowds than many other Alabama hockey games, Shepherd said.

“Usually if Bama hockey plays a team outside the SEC, we will have 200 people here. If they play an SEC team, we will usually have about 700 people in the stands,” she said. “But this weekend, we had about 2,000 on Friday night, and it was almost a full house on Saturday night.

“On Sunday, we probably had 1,000 or 1,500 people in the stands,” Shepherd added. “We were thrilled to have that kind of crowd on a Sunday afternoon. It brought a lot of people to Pelham who have never been here.”

The ice Iron Bowl, which is known as the Iron Cup, will rotate yearly between Pelham and Auburn’s home ice in Columbus, Ga., so the series will not return to Shelby County until 2013.

Because Alabama plays all of its home games in Pelham, Shepherd said she hopes the Iron Cup will bring more fans to all of the Frozen Tide’s games. Alabama’s next home matches are Jan. 21-22 against the University of Florida.

“We hope the Iron Cup will be a springboard for bringing more fans to the home games,” Shepherd said. “We just have a wonderful relationship with Bama hockey. It’s great for Pelham.

“We are hoping that some of the same fans that came for the Iron Bowl will say ‘hey, that was fun. We need to come to more of these,’” Shepherd added. “They are very affordable family events.”

For more information about the University of Alabama hockey team, including its remaining 2011 schedule, visit Bamahockey.net.